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Leblanc v. Texas Brine Co., LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana

April 18, 2018

LISA T. LEBLANC, ET AL.
v.
TEXAS BRINE CO., LLC, ET AL.

         SECTION A(5)

          ORDER AND REASONS [Ref: All Cases]

          JAY C. ZAINEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The following motions are before the Court: Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Collateral Estoppel, Fault, and Liability (Rec. Doc. 1626) filed by Texas Brine Co., LLC (“TBC”).; First Motion for Summary Judgment on Issues of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel (Rec. Doc. 1633) filed by Browning Oil Co., Colorado Crude Co., and LORCA Corp.; Cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment on Issues of Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel (Rec. Doc. 1639) filed by Reliance Petroleum Corp. The motions, submitted for consideration on March 21, 2018, are before the Court on the briefs without oral argument.

         Judge Thomas J. Kliebert, Jr. conducted a three-week bench trial for the purpose of determining what caused the Assumption Parish Sinkhole to form and which parties were at fault for its formation. (“the Liability Trial”). The plaintiffs in the Liability Trial were companies whose pipelines traverse Assumption Parish; the defendants and third-party defendants were the same defendants and third-party defendants that appear in this litigation. On December 21, 2017, Judge Kliebert issued written reasons and a final judgment (“the Liability Judgment”) that apportioned fault for the sinkhole as follows:

         Oxy Entities 50% of fault; TBC 35% of fault; Vulcan 15% of fault.

         This Court held a status conference on February 1, 2018, at which the Court stated:

The parties' preconference submissions demonstrate that the res judicata effect, if any, of Judge Kliebert's liability determination should be resolved before bellwether trials are scheduled in this Court. TBC is persuaded that the liability ruling by Judge Kliebert in state court is res judicata as to certain parties in this litigation. Therefore, TBC shall file a motion seeking a ruling on the issue of res judicata as to the specific Phase I parties that TBC contends are bound by the judgment . . . . Once the res judicata effect of the judgment is determined, which in turn will determine the scope of the bellwether trials proposed for the fall of 2018, the Court will be in a better position to address the joint proposal for resolving in 2018 all Phase I outstanding claims asserted by plaintiffs.

(Rec. Doc. 1623, Minute Entry 2/1/18).

         TBC filed its motion and the motions by the third party defendants-Browning Oil Co., Colorado Crude Co., LORCA Corp., and Reliance Petroleum Corp.-followed.[1]

         In deciding the preclusive effect of a state court judgment in federal court, the court applies the law of the state that rendered the judgment. In re Gober, 100 F.3d 1195, 1201 (5th Cir. 1996) (citing Marrese v. Am. Academy of Ortho. Surgeons, 470 U.S. 373, 380 (1985)). Louisiana law therefore governs the preclusive effect that Judge Kliebert's ruling will have in this federal litigation.

         Louisiana's res judicata statute provides in relevant part:

Except as otherwise provided by law, a valid and final judgment is conclusive between the same parties, except on appeal or other direct review, to the following extent . . . [a] judgment in favor of either the plaintiff or the defendant is conclusive, in any subsequent action between them, with respect to any issue actually litigated and determined if its determination was essential to that judgment.

La. R. S. § 13:4231(3).[2]

         Thus, there are three requirements for issue preclusion: (1) a valid and final judgment; (2) identity of the parties; and (3) an issue that has been actually litigated and determined if its determination was essential to the prior ...


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